ACUMEN Spring 2022

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 19 Examining the Past to Comprehend the Future Being able to combine science and storytelling is what attracted Allison Mickel to anthropology and archaeology. After participating in her first dig in Kenya and publishing her findings at age 19, she decided that the field would be her career. Deeply experienced in excavating, conducting research, and managing archaeology field schools, especially in the Middle East, the assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology is an advocate for immersive learning, undergraduate research, and publishing outcomes. “About 20 students who I’ve taught have been published in undergraduate research journals,” says Mickel, who is also a faculty member in the interdisciplinary Global Studies program. “I think that the process of investigating the question, sorting through analysis, mounting an argument and then having the bravery to submit your work for judgment and publishing consideration by peers … there’s a lot of life lessons in that process.” Mickel earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and linguistics and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in anthropology. Her first published book focused on defending the use of fiction in archaeological writing. Her second book, Why Those Who Shovel Are Silent: A History of Local Archaeological Knowledge and Labor published in 2021, examined how members of Middle Eastern communities are experts in digging, sifting and sorting but are often excluded from recording aspects of the archaeological research process or receiving credit for their expertise. Funding provided by the sociology and anthropology department allowed Mickel to include Lehigh undergraduates on-site in Jordan for ethnographic research for her third book, Turning Over the Spade: Startup Approaches to Archaeological Labor, aiming for publication in 2023. Collaborating with Sela and Hand by Hand, two Jordanian companies that are challenging the rooted colonialist traditions in local archaeological labor management, Mickel arranged for anthropology and global studies major Jessica Mun ’21, international relations major Stephanie Brabender ’21 and physics major and anthropology minor Mary Kate Pasha ’21 to complete sixweek summer internships at Sela in 2019. “They collected data. We did analysis together. They wrote up reports and were directly involved in the research that I was doing at the time. I actually am using their field notes in combination with my own field notes for the book, which they will receive credit for,” says Mickel, who provides real data sets from archaeological sites to students to analyze in her courses Human Evolution and World Prehistory and Archaeology of the Middle East. While an undergraduate, Olivia Lee ’20 ’21 received grant funding to complete original research with Mickel in Jordan for her senior thesis, Ancient Solutions to Modern Crises: Restoring the Water System at Umm el-Jimal, Jordan. “I would never have had this opportunity if not for Dr. Mickel. I am incredibly grateful for her support throughout the entire process, including providing advice on writing a grant proposal to guiding me through receiving Institutional Review Board approval and being a mentor and companion while in Jordan,” says Lee. Since earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in anthropology and music and a Master of Engineering in technical entrepreneurship at Lehigh, Lee is now a director of compliance for Project Scepter, an Arizona start-up. “No student that I’ve ever taken to Jordan had ever been to the Arab world before,” says Mickel, who speaks English, Arabic, French and Turkish. “They have to challenge underlying assumptions. They learn how to navigate a different cultural environment. They leave with unparalleled insight into whatever topic they came to investigate. I think becoming an expert on a topic—however small—is a really empowering experience.” ● QAIS TWEISSI Allison Mickel (second from left) with Mary Kate Pasha, Sondos (a Jordanian student), Jessica Mun, and Stephanie Brabender in Jordan.